We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Deaf People in Hitler's Europe

Donna F. Ryan and John S. Schuchman, Editors

Publication Year: 2002

Inspired by the conference “Deaf People in Hitler’s Europe, 1933–1945,” hosted jointly by Gallaudet University and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1998, this extraordinary collection, organized into three parts, integrates key presentations and important postconference research. Henry Friedlander begins “Part I: Racial Hygiene” by analyzing the assault on deaf people and people with disabilities as an integral element in the Nazi attempt to implement their theories of racial hygiene. Robert Proctor documents the role of medical professionals in deciding who should be sterilized or forbidden to marry, and whom the Nazi authorities would murder. In an essay written especially for this volume, Patricia Heberer details how Nazi manipulation of eugenics theory and practice facilitated the justification for the murder of those considered socially undesirable. “Part II: The German Experience” commences with Jochen Muhs’s interviews of deaf Berliners who lived under Nazi rule, both those who suffered abuse and those who, as members of the Nazi Party, persecuted others, especially deaf Jews. John S. Schuchman describes the remarkable 1932 film Misjudged People, which so successfully portrayed the German deaf community as a vibrant contributor to society that the Nazis banned its showing when they came to power. Horst Biesold’s contribution confirms the complicity of teachers who denounced their own students, labeling them hereditarily deaf and thus exposing them to compulsory sterilization. The section also includes the reprint of a chilling 1934 article entitled “The Place of the School for the Deaf in the New Reich,” in which author Kurt Lietz rued the expense of educating deaf students, who could not become soldiers or bear “healthy children.” In “Part III: The Jewish Deaf Experience,” John S. Schuchman discusses the plight of deaf Jews in Hungary. His historical analysis is complemented by a chapter containing excerpts from the testimony of six deaf Jewish survivors who describe their personal ordeals. Peter Black’s reflections on the need for more research conclude this vital study of a little-known chapter of the Holocaust.

Published by: Gallaudet University Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (28.3 KB)
pp. v-vi

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (52.4 KB)
pp. vii-xi

The following collection of essays is the result of several threads of investigation and scholarship woven together at the “Deaf People in Hitler’s Europe, 1933–1945” international conference, which took place in Washington, D.C., on June 21–24, 1998, under the auspices of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the History and Government Department at Gallaudet University....

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (60.2 KB)
pp. 1-8

Few images of the past half century have haunted the imagination as much as those emanating from Europe in 1945. Although much information regarding the brutal treatment of minorities and Hitler’s political opponents had filtered out of Nazi-controlled Europe between 1933 and 1945, the full horror of the torture and murder...

Part I. Racial Hygiene

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (35.5 KB)
pp. 11-14

Broad pseudoscientific theories, social policies, and mental images of an ideal population for the New Germany governed the treatment of deaf people during Hitler’s regime. Recent scholarship in Holocaust studies has fit the wartime experiences of people with disabilities into the context of popular “eugenics” theories intended...

read more

Holocaust Studies and the Deaf Community

pdf iconDownload PDF (112.7 KB)
pp. 15-31

The fate of deaf people in Nazi Germany is a neglected aspect of the Holocaust. Certainly, few would think of them as Holocaust victims or survivors. In the United States, even in Germany, few are aware that during the Nazi era, human beings—men, women, and children—with impaired hearing were sterilized against their will,...

read more

Eugenics in Hitler’s Germany

pdf iconDownload PDF (112.9 KB)
pp. 32-48

We like to think that medicine is a force for healing in the world, but we should also not forget that, in the wrong political climate, medicine can join with evil to produce monstrosities.1 Such was the case in the Nazi era. As we shall see, scientists and physicians collaborated in the most horrific crimes of the Nazis—including the...

read more

Targeting the “Unfit” and Radical Public Health Strategies in Nazi Germany

pdf iconDownload PDF (142.9 KB)
pp. 49-70

Nazi ideology identified Jews and Gypsies living within and without the Reich borders as foreign and parasitic elements that threatened the German body politic, and targeted them on biological bases for discrimination and destruction. Yet, even within the German “racial community,” there were components of that population...

Part II. The German Experience

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (37.5 KB)
pp. 73-77

The Nazis were concerned primarily with the racial and genetic purity of the so-called Aryans, so they applied the most dramatic racial and eugenics policies first within the borders of Germany before moving on to the rest of the rapidly expanding Reich. Thus, our discussion of the impact that marriage prohibitions, forced sterilizations...

read more

Deaf People as Eyewitnesses of National Socialism

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.4 MB)
pp. 78-97

In 1995, for the fiftieth anniversary of German liberation from Hitler’s dictatorship, I presented an exhibition in the Berlin Center for the Deaf, called “Fifty Years Later: Deaf People Under Hitler ’s Dictatorship, 1933–1945.” The exposition consisted of cables from 1930 to 1945, excerpts from contemporary deaf newspapers, photographs...

read more

Misjudged People: The German Deaf Community in 1932

pdf iconDownload PDF (4.3 MB)
pp. 98-113

In August 1932, the German deaf community released a film entitled Verkannte Menschen (Misjudged People) written by Wilhelm Ballier and produced by Alfred Kell. Financed by the members and organizations of REGEDE, the German national deaf association, with a contribution by the association of teachers of deaf children, the...

read more

The Place of the School for the Deaf in the New Reich

pdf iconDownload PDF (57.1 KB)
pp. 114-120

Editor ’s Note: The two chief professional publications for deaf education in the United States are the American Annals of the Deaf (the Annals) and the Volta Review. The Annals is sponsored by the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf and the Convention of American Instructors of the Deaf, and the sponsor of the...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (589.7 KB)
pp. 121-163

The testimony I gathered suggests that educators in Germany’s special schools actively supported racial hygiene measures against deaf people; they did not share the “rescue mentality” claimed by historians for special education teachers.1 It is worthwhile to begin this discussion by reviewing the influence of the director of the...

Part III. The Jewish Deaf Experience

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (24.0 KB)
pp. 167-168

Nazi racial hygiene policies were carried to their deadliest conclusion within the borders of the Third Reich where the Aryan master race was supposed to be purified and propagated. In the case of Jews, the Nazi worldview called for their removal from all of Europe, whether by expulsion or extermination. Similarly, Roma and Sinti,...

read more

Hungarian Deaf Jews and the Holocaust

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.6 MB)
pp. 169-201

Being deaf and Jewish is not easy. The experience of many deaf Jews is one of marginalization. Within Judaism, deaf persons historically have been considered incomplete Jews, classified legally with children and mentally disabled individuals.1 Within the national deaf communities, deaf Jews have faced the same anti-Semitic...

read more

Deaf Survivors’ Testimony: An Edited Transcript

pdf iconDownload PDF (5.3 MB)
pp. 202-212

In the summer of 1997, Donna Ryan and I interviewed a dozen deaf Hungarian Jews. Although neither of us speaks Hungarian nor uses Hungarian sign language, we believe that this transcript is a reasonably accurate English translation of the narratives that follow. Our initial interviews with a dozen Hungarian deaf Jews occurred in the...

Part IV. Concluding Thoughts

read more

A Call for More Research

pdf iconDownload PDF (68.8 KB)
pp. 215-223

When asked in the summer of 1998, prior to the conference on “Deaf People in Hitler’s Europe,” what bibliography I might suggest for background reading before the event, I responded that there was precious little (I must admit, with some embarrassment that I was unaware at the time of Horst Biesold’s...


pdf iconDownload PDF (75.8 KB)
pp. 225-233

E-ISBN-13: 9781563682018
E-ISBN-10: 156368201X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781563681325
Print-ISBN-10: 1563681323

Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 3 tables, 20 photographs
Publication Year: 2002

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • Eugenics -- Germany -- History -- 20th century
  • Deaf -- Germany -- History -- 20th century.
  • Deaf -- Government policy -- Germany.
  • Deaf -- Europe -- History -- 20th century.
  • People with disabilities -- Government policy -- Germany.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access